Some advocates agree that several of the incidents, two of which occurred Saturday, were most likely not motivated by sexual orientation. But they say all should be highlighted because a vulnerable group is involved and the public should know what’s happening.
Others disagree. Diane Davis of Temple Hills, the aunt of recent homicide victim Malika Stover, was angry when advocates distributed a funeral notice that read: “Shooting claims life of LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] victim.” Stover, 35, who was a lesbian, was not killed because she was gay, Davis said.
“She was a person, not a label,” said Davis, who thinks her niece was slain in a June 22 robbery of a dice game near her childhood home in Southeast Washington’s Barry Farm. “That funeral statement contradicts what I think happened.”
Hassan Naveed, co-chairman of the group Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence, said generating publicity about such crimes is important. “People see transgendered as a target,” he said. “People will attack certain people because they perceive them as being weak. We want people to realize that it is happening.”
D.C. police, accused in the past of being insensitive or indifferent to the gay and transgender community, now pay close attention. A gay and lesbian liaison unit investigates all cases with even a hint of suspected bias. The task force is examining all six recent attacks. And there are legal ramifications to the attention: A hate crime conviction in the District can lead to punishments up to 11
2 times the maximum penalty.
Assistant D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham said five of the six attacks since June 21 are not considered hate crimes. Four of the cases involved transgender victims, and police in three of them listed their sexual orientation in news releases.
“Advocates in that community seem to think offenses are not taken as seriously as others, and they ask that we” list the sexual orientation, Newsham said. “They say they want that information out there, and we accommodate them.” Police did not list the homicide victim, Stover, as gay.
Ruby Corado, who runs a volunteer center for transgender women, said all crimes against that community should be considered hate crimes.
She spoke of a transgender woman who was stabbed at least 11 times June 21 in an abandoned building in Southeast. Police said the incident occurred during an argument over money for sex. But advocates who have spoken to the victim said the attacker stabbed the woman after friends laughed at him for being with a transgender person. Police have made an arrest in that case.